I have been more eagerly trying to acquire knowledges that upset how I’m used to thinking about identities and knowledge reception. I’ve become a huge fan of theoretical and philosophical frameworks that allow me to interrogate what I think I knew.
Writers I currently fancy include Stuart Hall, Franz Fanon, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, David Scott, Mariama Bâ, Simon Gikandi, Amiri Baraka, Louis Bennett, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, René Descartes, Immanuel Kant, Ama Ata Aidoo, Paulo Freire, Edward Said, and Martin Heidegger.
The problem, I realized this morning, is that I have not been writing much of my opinions as I used to. As I argue privately with myself, I’ve been contradicting myself day by day. In a society where self-contradiction is seen as flip-flopping rather than self-interrogation and growth, I’m careful of how this perceived “self-contradiction” will affect my character and the reception of the ideas I seek to impart.
The good thing is that as time goes by, I expect to arrive at a point where I become more comfortable again in sharing my views. But for now, it’s hard, because in every piece of my opinions and those of others, I see inconsistencies, openings to disagree. To take a position, knowing an argument’s loopholes, requires too much writing within a piece of writing: 1st there are the paragraphs to inform readers of my awareness of an argument’s vulnerability; 2nd come the paragraphs to actually take position/s.
And there are other needed sections as well, which would force the writing into academic territory, which requires too much research, too much laboring, too much accountability, given that I just want to feel like I’m talking to my social media family as though we are sitting in a park and chilling and drinking, speaking heart to heart, knowing we are thinking and not thinking always clearly and objectively, but still thinking, and maintaining the right to speak this “thinking” that is becoming–a becoming that becomes its own ontology of thought.
Most importantly is that I realized that much of our writing culture pander to religious affiliations, political constituencies, racialized groups, sexualities, and gender positioning. To write within those traditions or even subvert them is to, nonetheless, engage the very traditions I am trying to acknowledge but disrupt.
To give an example—I must acknowledge Marcus Garvey and Cornel West are correct for saying race matters, but how can I comfortably write about race or being a proud Jamaican in America when I’m currently contending with what “race” and nationalism mean. Are we only Black, White, Latino, Native Americans, Asians, Jamaicans, Haitians, Kenyans, Nigerians? How have we been forced to take on singular identities because of the political activism of writers, nationalism, regionalism, imperialism, and anti- and pro- civil rights celebrities?
In what ways might we consider the claim of cultural critic Stuart Hall that identities are becoming rather than selves that are fixedly placed? How have the processes of fixing ourselves inside racial, nationalist, religious, atheist, liberal, conservative, and radical boxes, ignoring the multiplicity of our identities, affected our ability to locate ourselves in varied histories rather than just one history, ethnicity, geography? And by “history,” are we trying to discover truths, or are we trying to place ourselves into what we conceptualize as “truth,” because we feel that such “truth” gives us pride from being a part of powerful communities?
Born in Haiti but she spent most of her life in the U.S., so is Edwdige Danticat Haitian, American, African American, Afro-Haitian, Black? Or all? Or some? Or none? Who decides? Danticat, or the body of her writings? Or the theoretical readings into her writings, which have their own life and livelihood (where me might say, as a theoretical school called New Criticism would, that Edwidge has no power to say how we must interpret her writing–the author is dead when the writing is born)?
How have we all cemented racial antagonisms and races by our very acts of trying to disable them? And given that we can never avoid the reality of the presence of racial constructs and racism, how could we/I talk about race without perpetuating racial singularities and at the same time be no “Uncle Tom” nor “Native Informant;” yet, at the same time, be those very uncomfortable characters if it means we are unshackled by the slaveholding chains of identities?